Canada: Population 100 Million – Part II
Metaphor and policy for a first-order country and people. Or why Canada must think for itself
Since I wrote “Canada – Population 100 Million” in GB’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue, a bona fide national debate has taken hold about the merits and demerits of Canada having a total population of 100 million by the end of this century. The Globe & Mail, Canada’s leading broadsheet, devoted an entire week to the 100 million thesis, coming out strongly in favour (see the excellent writing on this topic by Doug Saunders). So too, some time later, did the National Post, led by important interventions from Andrew Coyne and Terence Corcoran. A host of national and international papers and news outlets on several continents have also covered the concept, and many follow-up articles, hostile and supportive alike, have been written in a variety of platforms. A new, ambitious think tank called the Century Initiative, based in Toronto, was launched last year with the express goal of promoting the goal of 100 million Canadians by century’s end. There followed formal advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet from the Government of Canada’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth to the effect that Canada, primarily for reasons economic, should increase its annual immigration rate from the current 300,000 to 450,000 – a quantum that coincides exactly with the estimated demographic intake needed for Canada to reach a population of 100 million by the year 2100.
For a number of reasons – some perhaps anticipated below – the 450,000 immigration quantum has for now been resisted, at least formally, by Ottawa. This remains the case even in the context of what I have called, in several public interventions, a unique strategic opportunity for Canada to profit from the present political instability and discontent in the US by ‘seducing,’ without undue sentimentality, leading Americans in industry, culture, science and sport to immigrate to Canada. In point of fact, the peculiar spectacle of the 2016 American election, the unusual new US presidency, and the general political and social malaise in that country should force Canadian leaders, and with them the Canadian population at large, to resolve to develop the institutional structures and cultural and economic resources that will allow Canada to properly ‘think for itself’ sooner rather than later. But ‘thinking for ourselves’ is more than just pious proclamation – for Canada does not, and indeed cannot, at the time of this writing, really think for itself at the standard of a ‘first-order’ or ‘term-setting’ country or people. Instead, the goal of ‘thinking for ourselves’ is a strategic project, with both metaphorical and policy tentacles, as the country maps out its next 150 years. It is, in this sense, effectively identical with the 100 million project.
And so, seven years after the original volley in GB, I thought it sensible to update some of my reflections on the 100 million thesis, to clarify some of the intentions of the original piece and, perhaps most importantly, to address the several powerful and legitimate strands of criticism that have been, and may still, be levelled at the 100 million thesis.
I am, for all practical intents and purposes, indifferent between a Canada at 75 million by the year 2100 and a Canada of 120 million. If Canada still exists by century’s end, it will be more populous than any European state.
100 Million As Metaphor
Before I address the policy side of the debate about 100 million at t = 2100, let me treat the dimension that was largely neglected or even misunderstood in the Canadian (national) reaction to the original GB article – to wit, that the 100 million construct is as much about metaphor as it is about policy, and perhaps even more metaphor than policy. After all, I am, for all practical intents and purposes, indifferent between a Canada at 75 million by the year 2100 and a Canada of 120 million. In both scenarios – and the country will quite possibly at least hit the first scenario even at medium-variant population growth projections – Canada, if it still exists by century’s end (no certainty by any stretch), will probably be more populous than any European state with the likely exception of Russia (if Russia still has its current borders – also no certainty).
For Canadians today, the prospect of Canada becoming ‘bigger’ than any European state and, by implication, the second largest state in the West after the US, is unfathomable. It is not a permissible scenario in the national imagination as presently constructed – an imagination still built on colonial scaffolding that readily subordinates, with few exceptions, to the imaginations of ‘big’ or ‘authoritative’ nations and societies like the US (first and foremost), the UK (not even twice as populous as Canada), France and so on. As this subordination is largely instinctual in the Canadian mentality (a badly neglected word in Canadian policy discourses), it is difficult to say whether it finds deliberate affirmation and consolidation in the behaviour of Canada’s political, economic, cultural and intellectual leaders, or whether they too are simply products of the same colonial narratives and idées fixes.
The metaphor of 100 million is therefore squarely aimed at the Canadian psyche and mentality. It removes any objective excuses for Canadians to think of their country as ‘small,’ and makes ridiculous the present national proclivity – again, with some important exemptions – to benchmark downward: why can Canada not be more like Norway (population five million)? But seldom: why can Canada not be more like Germany, France, Japan or the UK?
An example of this colonial, self-subordinating mentality in action: if we are brutally honest with ourselves (and Canadians, like all nations, have a self-defensive escapism, masked in patriotic dogmas, about these truths), then we might ask: why is it that Mark Zuckerberg goes to Harvard and creates Facebook, ultimately revolutionizing the way in which many people network and communicate around the world, or that Sergey Brin and Larry Page go to Stanford and build Google, while many of even the best and brightest of Canadian students, in the top Canadian schools, fix as their initial ambition not to create a Facebook or Google, but instead to work for them? Or, alternatively, to bring Facebook or Google or some other venture of apparently superior progeny to Canada? The Americans at last build a highly respectable national soccer league, and instead of building one ourselves, we add a few Canadian representatives within an American structure and call it a job well done. (There are, predictably, hardly any Canadians playing in the three professional ‘Canadian’ teams that are implanted in the American structure.) The Americans make the NBA the world’s premier basketball league, and instead of investing heavily in our own Canadian national league (granted, there is some heroic, improbable work being done to this end), we wish only to be part of their imagination – again, the superior imagination, as we see it. Even in our own truly national sport – hockey – we settle for seven teams out of a total of 30 teams in a league run principally from New York.
Witness Canadians, and even the Prime Minister, every four years (including in 2017), waiting with baited breath, colony-like, to hear whether the NHL commissioner, from his perch in Manhattan, decides to allow NHL players – starting with Canadian NHL players – to play in the Olympic Games. In other words, the defending Olympic champions, the Canadians, must wait to see whether an American will veto the ability of the Canadian national team to represent the country and defend Olympic gold – perhaps one of the only national undertakings that psychologically binds the country from coast to coast to coast.
Question: why not build our own leagues? Answer: because we are not yet a ‘builder’ nation. This is not a question of economics tout court – it is a question, first and foremost, of mentality. And in this world, and in this century, international life will continue to be marked by two types of peoples: the builders and, in the alternative, those who live on the terms of the builders. For now, we Canadians continue to be happy – even if unconsciously so – to live on the terms of builder nations that we generally deem to be superior.
The good news is that while the Canadian mentality is still, in the general, beset by colonial instincts, suppositions and narratives, there is, outside of perhaps our remarkable juridical classes and some of our mining and resource talent, at least one type of Canadian whose psyche is world-beating without conditions or qualifications: the Canadian hockey player. One need only enter a Canadian hockey rink in any part of the country – small town or big city – to understand that Canadian hockey players form in an altogether different brew, and develop and refine a mentality that is fierce, uncompromising, and second-to-none (that is, utterly anti-colonial) when juxtaposed with that of other nations. The question is: can this same hockey player mentality be transferred to other areas of Canadian life and performance – to commerce, the arts, the sciences, politics, geopolitics, and indeed other sports? The 100 million construct as metaphor is an attempt to push us in this direction. It bets that the Canadian of the Canada at 100 million, at century’s end, will sooner have the mentality of the hockey player than not – and not just in matters hockey. And, of course, that the country will, for many of the reasons articulated in the 2010 article, need and profit from such a mentality.
100 Million As Policy
The most vociferous strands of public critique of the 100 million thesis have related to the environment, broadly put, as well as to the manifest challenge of integrating many more new Canadians into Canadian society. I address these critiques below. However, in my analysis, these critiques are less compelling than two other potential lines, which have to date been little discussed in the public debate: on the one hand, legitimate concerns about the future of Quebec in the context of a Canada at 100 million; on the other, uncertainty about how Canada’s indigenous peoples, in all their diversity, will react to, or fare, in such a Canada. Let me take up these last two critiques before I turn to what I think are the less threatening first two lines.
A cognate, arguably quasi-constitutional element of this bargain is that the demographic weight of Quebec in Canada – or the proportion of the Canadian national population represented by Quebec – will not be significantly diminished over time.
Critique 1 – The Future of the Quebec Question
The argument ‘from Quebec,’ as it were, against the 100 million thesis would essentially go something like this: the constitutional bargain at the heart of Canada, even if never perfectly or definitively articulated, is that the Canadian federation will protect Quebec’s distinct language (French), religion (Catholicism), system of law (civil code) and culture (via the educational system), in exchange for which French Canadians (or their dominant political unit) will remain loyal to the institutions of a country in which the majority is English-speaking. A cognate, arguably quasi-constitutional element of this bargain is that the demographic weight of Quebec in Canada – or the proportion of the Canadian national population represented by Quebec – will not be significantly diminished over time. Such demographic erosion would, from the Quebec perspective, compromise that province’s capacity to play a leading role in preserving its unique institutions.
If Canada were to reach 100 million by century’s end, this would mean that Quebec’s population – assuming the preservation of the demographic weight it enjoys today – would be more than 20 million (or over 20 percent of the Canadian population). At first blush, this quantum might seem an extraordinary leap from the current Quebec population of eight million. And yet, for the province’s vast territory – a territory larger than that of France – such a population increase would, over the course of almost a century, seem far from absurd (provided we take care of some of the environmental and integration challenges discussed below).
The more surgical question would be as follows: even if Quebec’s demographic weight is preserved, would all or most of these new Québécois necessarily speak French? If the essential protection bargain is to be preserved, then the answer should be a resounding yes. (Of course, immigrants may speak French as a first, second or even third language.) And if this is the case, it should affect the choice of source countries for immigrants to Quebec, as well as the provincial and federal resources devoted to language training for newcomers. (We discuss source countries and regions below in the context of the integration critique.)
Quebec may actually find that, with more than 20 million mostly French-speaking people in the province, it will begin to enjoy many of the economies of scale and scope that will benefit Canada as a whole in the context of its own much larger population. And this will mean that Quebec will have a larger capacity to protect its language, culture and institutions than it has in the current context of eight million people (ageing and shrinking) out of a Canadian population of 36 million.
But let me go further: the rest of Canada should also participate in bolstering the protection bargain. Indeed, Canada will be compelled to participate should the country’s increased population actually fail to result in 20 million or so Québécois – that is, if Quebec ends up with, say, 15 or 14 million in a Canada of 100 million. What could Canada do? Answer: launch a national languages strategy, today, to promote full French-English bilingualism among all young Canadians, outside of and within Quebec. This would lead to future generations of Canadians who, even while not residing in Quebec, are able to read literature coming out of Quebec (or to read what the Québécois read), consume news and music and films of Québécois provenance, understand Quebec political and cultural debates beyond the surface level (today’s reality), form deep friendships and networks with French-Canadians across the territory of Quebec, and, to be sure, freely and frictionlessly move, inter-provincially, to Quebec to work and live (thus compensating for any demographic imbalances from the larger immigrant intake). For now, such deep friendships and networks between English-speaking Canadians outside Quebec and French-speaking Québécois are, even in this early new century, more the exception than the rule. Some of the brightest and most networked young professionals in English Canada, for lack of full bilingualism and facility with Québécois culture, today have a rolodex that includes precious few francophone Québécois. This fatally compromises their ability to understand many of the core debates in Quebec society and increases the costs of any intervention, even if well-intentioned, in such debates – especially in periods of potential unity crisis. (It also makes it unlikely that these non-French-speaking Canadians can successfully move to Quebec to work and live.) Bref, if one has poor networks and little French, then how is a non-Québécois to play a meaningful role in supporting the protection mandate at the heart of Canadian constitutionalism? More broadly, how can we form a reasonably common political imagination in the country if most Canadians are not speaking the same language, as it were – or, in other words, speaking each other’s language?
As I have written before, Canada’s national languages strategy should stress French-English bilingualism as a baseline standard, but should go beyond this. It should aim to have nearly all future educated Canadians become functionally trilingual – this in a world in which bilingualism is increasingly no great trophy. Most educated Europeans and Asians from leading countries are increasingly at ease in three or more tongues. If French-English bilingualism is key to Canadian national unity and the protection bargain underpinning it, then competence or fluency in at least one more tongue would help future Canadians compete effectively – and win – in an increasingly complex world in which Canada has not one international border (with the US), but indeed four: America (or the Americas) to the south, China to the west, Russia to the north (across the Arctic), and Europe to the east. We may call these new borders, and therefore Canada’s geopolitical ‘game’ this century, ACRE. And this game would seem to dictate that more Canadians should be able to conduct business meetings in a third tongue like Spanish, Mandarin (or another Asian tongue), Russian and any number of other European languages – not to mention Arabic, Persian, Hindi and others. As I note below in respect of the potential Aboriginal critique of 100 Million, we might even imagine adding an Aboriginal tongue to the roster of third or fourth languages that Canadians could acquire in the context of the national languages strategy.
Finally, as it approaches 100 million people, Canada should, beyond languages, be working extra hard to bolster knowledge of civil law and the Quebec Code civil among the country’s jurists. Today, while, as mentioned, Canada trains some of the world’s best lawyers in some of the world’s best common law faculties, these lawyers – who inevitably form the talent pool from which are drawn our justice ministers, deputy ministers and Supreme Court Justices – are, with few exceptions, not even superficially versed in the country’s ‘other’ legal system. This is a failure of policy and imagination in Canada, and one with material consequences for the protection bargain with Quebec: it means that Canada’s English-speaking legal classes do not fully appreciate how Quebec’s jurists and legal commentators think, and how Quebec forms many of its constitutional-political ‘asks’ in respect of the federal project in Canada – for starters, the preference in Quebec for explicit language (a civil code preference) rather than implicit understanding (a common law preference).
Unlike with Quebec, there is, strictly speaking, no constitutional or even quasi-constitutional requirement or expectation that the Aboriginal demographic weight in Confederation be preserved.
Critique 2 – The Aboriginal Argument
The Aboriginal critique may be similar to the Quebec one in the sense that Canada’s indigenous peoples would also become understandably anxious if their demographic weight were to shrink markedly in favour of newer Canadians. They might fear that their economic and political weight in the country might, as a result, shrink, and that Aboriginal issues would become marginalized – or, some might say, even more marginalized than today.
And yet, unlike with Quebec, there is, strictly speaking, no constitutional or even quasi-constitutional requirement or expectation that the Aboriginal demographic weight in Confederation be preserved. (Note that, at present, by natural increase, the Aboriginal demographic footprint in Canada is actually growing, not shrinking.) There are, to be sure, other constitutional strictures, like duty of care and consultative obligations for the Crown, that have arisen through the growing body of Supreme Court jurisprudence on Aboriginal law, but these have little to do with demography and everything to do with natural resources, land and treaty rights.
So what’s to be done to address legitimate Aboriginal concerns about a much larger Canada in which the demographic weight of indigenous peoples, both in the aggregate and possibly also at the level of certain individual nations, will be smaller? The answer must begin with the brutal premise that the Aboriginal people in Canada still live as history’s losing people; that is, most of the Aboriginal population in Canada is descended most recently from people who in their legal, social, economic, organizational and geopolitical interactions with non-Aboriginals – principally European settlers and their descendants – were, over time and for a variety of reasons, stripped of territory, prestige, rights and the underpinnings of social and material well-being.
In some cases, they were plainly outmanoeuvred; in others, they were tricked; and in others still, they were assimilated, killed or sickened by extra-continental diseases. The cumulative effect of these blows was historical defeat for the majority of the First Nations to the white man – a defeat that, compounded by the century-plus-long residential school regime, has mercilessly conditioned the logic of the relationship between indigenous people and what would become Canadian governments and Canadian society.
To this day, Aboriginal people have generally not been relieved – in their own minds or in the minds of the winning majority – of the status of Canadian history’s losing people. This is not a merely formal status; it is a properly psychological-spiritual one. It means that, to a large extent, the negative drag of the Aboriginal question today continues to be psychological-spiritual in nature, and that a good part of the answer to this Aboriginal question must deal frontally with this reality.
The creation over time in Canada of a formally bilingual, bicultural and binational state points the way forward on the Aboriginal question. Canada’s success to date in responding to the challenge to internal unity and cohesion posed by the linguistic and cultural differences between the English-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority has been premised on the idea that the endgame consists not in perfect harmony or amity between the tribes, but depends instead on how a historically victorious majority can rehabilitate and resuscitate defeated minorities into political and even cultural co-equals — co-equals who are equally invested in the continued existence of the state.
Historically defeated, the French Canadian in Canada, and in Quebec especially, today walks with his or her shoulders held high, properly self-respecting and in turn respected by the English-speaking majority as politically equal and as hailing from a culture that is just as prestigious as the Anglo-Saxon culture of the historical victors in North America. The French language is today not only studied in all of the schools of English-speaking Canada, but also held in equally high regard in official national institutions and, just as importantly, in the minds of most Canadians. An Anglophone can therefore become prime minister of Canada while being a rank naïf in international affairs, but not without more or less mastering (and respecting) the French language.
The rehabilitation or resuscitation of the French Canadians in Canada from historical (geopolitical) losers to political and cultural co-equals did not happen overnight. It took at least a few generations of conspicuous pushes in policy and constitutional reform – propelled also by the heroism and strategy of many intellectuals and political actors from French Canada in general, and Quebec in particular.
While there continues to be (and always will be) great debate in Canada and in Quebec about degrees of respect, dignity, constitutional power and division of responsibilities, the character of the French Canadian or Quebec question by now has precious little to do with historical tragedy and the lower extremes of basic material and social well-being for French Canadians and the Québécois. Instead, it is, in its sweet spot, a question about how to govern between centre and region, or between the general and the local.
Of the four major Anglo-Saxon democracies with large indigenous populations – Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand – it is New Zealand that has enjoyed the greatest success in the relationship between its indigenous peoples (mostly the Maori) and the white majority. Unlike indigenous people in the other three countries, the Maori in New Zealand are highly represented in the professions, in the national army, in sports (most famously dominating the All Blacks rugby union team and inspiring its haka) and in politics, where the national parliament designates specific seats exclusively for Maori representation.
To be sure, the Maori also suffer from many of the social dislocations of indigenous people in the other three countries; however, in no case do the indigenous populations of these countries have anything resembling the upside suggested for New Zealand’s Maori on the score of most indicators of socioeconomic well-being.
There would seem to be one signal reason for this difference: the Maori fought the colonizing white man more or less to a strategic draw in the mid-19th century. While its interpretation (and implementation) remains contested, the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, the founding constitutional document of the New Zealand state, reflects this broad logic of strategic parity between settler and native. As such, the constitutional-political development of the New Zealand state has, in the main, been in the direction of making the Maori the constitutional-political equal of the white man in New Zealand – that is, self-respecting and respected by New Zealand’s majority, including linguistically and in national rituals and symbology.
By contrast, a deep spiritual and psychological disorientation prevails today among many members of Canada’s First Nations. This disorientation, or spiritual anomie, stems from strategic loss in history. It conduces to an insufficiency of self-belief and self-confidence, reinforced by a general and painful disrespect or outright misapprehension (at best, indifference) by and from the white majority. If we accept this premise, then the challenge for Canada must be to appreciate this spiritual-cultural disorientation and, over the medium and long term, to launch a process that aims to consciously rehabilitate and resuscitate its Aboriginal people into co-equals in the political stewardship of the country.
Indigenous history and tradition themselves arguably anticipate this path for Canada. Brutal and not infrequent wars took place among the many powerful indigenous confederacies prior to contact with the Europeans. These wars yielded winners and losers – changing but, critically, often still preserving the relationships between the belligerent nations. The victor nations became the ‘big brothers’ in the relationship, assuming a responsibility to look out for the ‘younger brothers’ – that is, to protect them from their remaining enemies and to rebuild or reconstitute them so that they could become allies. In other words, victory led to protection and resuscitation of the defeated, which led, for purposes of survival, to reasonable co-equality in alliance.
Clearly, part of this push to co-equal status in Canada for the Aboriginal people will involve making the binational logic at the heart of Canadian constitutionalism far more porous for purposes of Aboriginal representation, control of territory and governing responsibilities. This will require us to reimagine the internal borders and identities of Canada in ways that are more eclectic than the very Cartesian 10 provinces-plus-three territories paradigm that predominates in most Canadian school textbooks and therefore in the psyche of most Canadians. Indeed, in a country of 100 million, with Aboriginals – in all their diversity – as co-equals in governance, the internal political geography of Canada will acquire the manifestly complex, eclectic form and appearance befitting a continent-sized country with a large population spread across its territory. (Of course, this eclectic internal political geography will also interact dynamically with Canada’s ‘ACRE’ borders this century.)
As suggested above, the vector of culture – far more than rights or economics – must dominate in the resuscitation of the Aboriginal people. A pivotal aspect of this cultural game surely must be the stimulation, revival and mainstreaming of Aboriginal languages. Through the aforementioned national languages strategy, renewed study across Canada in provincial schools of, say, Cree, Ojibway, Inuktitut and Michif – to take but four major Aboriginal tongues – would not only give Canadians a better understanding of Aboriginal realities and mentalities, but also lend prestige to the Aboriginal cultures that were relegated to the peripheries of Canadian society. Aboriginals, in turn, would be given an opening and an audience for the proliferation of books, magazines, blogs, films, radio and television shows across Canada and internationally in tongues that have renewed currency (and prestige).
We might then imagine a Canadian prime minister, in the year 2100 (and likely earlier), easily mastering English, French, Mandarin and Cree – all in the larger context of the Aboriginal people having become co-equals in the governance of Canada and equally invested in the continued existence and success of this Canada.
A final critical caveat is in order: empowering Aboriginals to become co-equals in governing Canada – the third party, as it were, in what was originally a binational or two-party constitutional compact – may both raise their standard of living and make them far more invested and effective in securing the success of Canada this century; at the same time, however, it could make governing this Canada very difficult. In extremis, if this transition from the extant binational to a de facto or, more complex still, de jure trilateral logic is not managed with world-historical skill, Canada could trend toward the ungovernable. The Aboriginal question would suddenly take on strategic characteristics, over and above its current internal and moral colours: Aboriginals would have effective or even constitutional-legal veto powers in respect of many aspects of Canadian governance that are critical to the advancement of core Canadian strategic interests, including rapid and efficient exploitation and distribution of natural resources (including in the North and the Arctic), population and settlement patterns for Canadians and new Canadians, control of specific territories (say, for purposes of national sovereignty or territorial integrity), and various species of infrastructure projects needed to continue to build and bind this country.
In other words, in solving the moral dimension of the Aboriginal question, Canada will be increasingly confronted with it at a strategic level. And dealing with it at this level will require an evolved mindset among Canadians and their governing classes, as well as new tools in the toolkit.
Critique 3 – The Environmental Argument
Will a population of 100 million not result in a Canada that is dirtier, less effective in stewarding its natural beauty, and more damaging to the global commons – perhaps in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and the national ‘carbon footprint’? At the surface level, there is no doubt that many more people in Canada will mean more pressure on Canada’s resources, its green spaces, its air quality, and its oceans, lakes and rivers (indeed, our water supply). Similarly, we might presume that it will become more difficult to preserve the cleanliness of Canada’s streets and cities and, of course, to stave off significant increases in national carbon emissions (even if these will continue to be a very small proportion of global carbon emissions, and at the severe risk of underestimating industrial transformations in favour of ‘green’ energy and technologies over the course of this century).
And yet we might counter as follows: domestically, more people will result in a larger economy (that is, more aggregate wealth) and indeed in far greater national business competition and innovation (where Canada today starts from a position of weakness vis-à-vis leading developed countries). Greater national wealth (and demographic density) will give the country the resources to make large-scale investments that today escape us in large part due to insufficient population – to wit, high-speed rail (or its technological equivalent at century’s end) connecting urban centres, the creation and regular upkeep of huge national parks across the country’s territory, the protection of endangered species, space exploration and research, and considerable expenditure on the cleaning and revitalization of brown fields, polluted waters, and depleted forests.
A greater population with a more competitive ‘hockey mentality’ will produce more world-beating Canadian companies and bring huge vitality to Canadian invention and innovation in the service of environmental goals.
Huge investments can be made in environmental science to make Canada the global leader (with no qualifications attached to this avocation) in this field, developing and attracting the world’s best scientists to the country and to its scientific and academic institutions. A greater population with a more competitive ‘hockey mentality’ will produce more world-beating Canadian companies and bring huge vitality to Canadian invention and innovation in the service of environmental goals: green energy, clean air and water, medicine, fisheries, efficient transport and communications, materials science, and far better embeddedness of Canadian nature into our daily lives. These companies will bring cutting-edge products and services to Canadian society just as they will revolutionize the ways in which many societies around the world interact with nature – for the better. That is what the world’s best companies do. And a Canada at 100 million will be producing many more of the world’s leading (‘term-setting’) companies.
While Canada’s carbon footprint will surely be larger (though not necessarily far larger as a proportion of global emissions), this same Canada will have much greater diplomatic weight in international affairs – weight supported by a far larger economy. With its world-beating companies, Canada will suddenly be able to not only affect the terms of international negotiations in ways that are foreign to the country today, but indeed also lead many of these international negotiations on environmental questions (again, lead without qualifications). Canadian assets, including new, higher-order Canadian thinking, will be shaping international discourses and debates and deals on the questions that today matter a great deal to Canadians in respect of the Canadian and the global commons, but in respect of which the country – for lack of population, punch and the right mindset – is ill-prepared and ill-equipped for impact. This will change at 100 million, and the favourable impact of the change will, in the net, significantly outweigh the aggregate impacts of the environmental pressures that will accompany a far larger and energetic Canada.
Critique 4 – The Integration Argument
How is Canada to integrate an additional 64 million people – even if this influx is spread over the course of 80 or more years? Answer: strategically, skillfully, and with great patience.
A few basic presumptions or bottom lines ought to inform this integration imperative for Canada as it builds toward 100 million. These bottom lines are, in my judgement, critical to the stability of Canada (or to preventing its destabilization) in constitutional and social terms as its demographic volume and diversity expand:
1. As noted, the proportion of the national population enjoyed by Quebec should be reasonably (even if not absolutely) stable as the population grows.
2. While the ethnic and religious majority/minority ratio in Canada will be diminished over time as the country approaches 100 million, the majority should never become a clear or conspicuous minority (for that would likely create revolutionary conditions in the country).
3. There should be very deliberate and careful distribution of new populations across the country’s regions, cities and towns.
Bearing this in mind, let us consider the integration imperative from both the upstream (selection) and downstream (on-the-ground) dimensions. Upstream, integration turns on the source countries for Canadian immigrants and the selection criteria for these immigrants. Today, the conventional wisdom is that the only growth markets for sources of Canadian immigrants are in those parts of the world in which populations continue to grow – that is, Asia, first and foremost (South Asia, Southeast Asia, and West Asia), but also Africa. Europe, on this logic, is generally considered a shrinking source of immigrants because of the continent’s ageing populations and, until recently, general geopolitical and economic stability (even if the European economy has been weakened somewhat since the 2008 economic crisis). Strangely, the US, the massive country to Canada’s south – with a population of almost 323 million – hardly enters the Canadian imagination when we consider possible future sources of immigration. Today, the US provides just over 8,000 permanent residents to Canada per annum, or as little as three percent of Canada’s annual intake of permanent residents.
And yet, historically, the US has been one of the major sources of Canadian immigrants, both before and after Confederation. Is 8,000 migrants per annum all that Canada can attract from its giant neighbour? Considering that Americans are, among all nationals, most likely to integrate rapidly into Canadian society, it would seem that Canada should be far more activist and aggressive in headhunting and attracting its American brethren to relocate to Canada. This recruitment campaign should, for the general American population, be all the more aggressive when the US undergoes periods of great political crisis and division, as is manifestly the case at this time of writing. For the brightest and most talented Americans, Ottawa should, on an ongoing basis and in concert with Canadian provinces, cities, companies and institutions, be floating carefully crafted recruitment packages to bring these people north – all to the benefit of Canada. The minister of immigration and his or her team should, in this respect, be on the phone regularly with some of these top people in order to bring to bear on this process the prestige of government, and to communicate to targeted recruits the seriousness of the state in bringing the best of the world to Canada – systematically. The same recruitment algorithm should be applied to various European countries – the nationals of which, after the Americans, are most susceptible to rapid integration into Canadian society. In particular, Canada should not be shy about targeting nationals from countries in crisis – present or anticipated – or periods of conspicuous systemic weakness (consider Greece and the UK in today’s EU, or previously Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, and perhaps France before long). To be clear, there is nothing virtuous about Canadian immigration assuming an impersonal, passive or transactional posture in its advertising or recruitment when there is an opportunity for Canada to acquire differential advantage in attracting superior immigration candidates who are likely to fit into Canadian society with minimal friction. Bref, when the next Eurozone crisis or political or geopolitical crisis or interethnic crisis hits a European state, one arm of the Canadian state should busy itself with helping our friends and allies, while another arm of the state should be wooing some of the disaffected, lost or anxious of that crisis – all for Canadian advantage. The strategic posture ought to be that Canada will always help the neediest and most desperate, but will not hesitate to steal the best and brightest.
Let us now turn to the downstream dimension of integration. Everyone will move to Toronto, goes the cry. In other words, Toronto would become a city of 30 million. But why should this be so? Why is the present national imagination so small? Surely, at 100 million, there will be new cities in Canada, and new major ones at that. Toronto may well become a city of 10 or 12 million, but so too will there be new major centres in the Canadian north – if not in the three territories, then in northern Quebec and Ontario and the northern Prairies (all to respond to the growth in the strategic and economic importance of the Arctic space) – as well as in the Canadian west and east. This is only natural: about a century ago, Montreal (population nearly half a million) was larger than Toronto (population 400,000), while Ottawa, at less than 100,000 people, was a village. If there will be new cities, and more importantly, if Canada will need new cities and population centres in particular parts of the country (again, for strategic and economic reasons), it will behoove Canadian governments – in particular, Ottawa – to be more strategic and deliberate in ensuring that new Canadians populate many different parts of the country, and not just the present three or four largest cities in the country. How can this be done? On the one hand, evidently, Ottawa and the provinces, municipalities and business concerns must be far more aggressive in seducing immigrants (and also incumbent Canadian citizens) to decide to settle or resettle in Canadian cities and towns that require more people – starting, evidently, with the Maritimes, the Prairie provinces and the North. (I know of very few countries that have managed, strategically and economically, a major ‘new’ international border without a significant demographic presence to support such management.)
On the other hand, the Government of Canada and the provinces should be far more courageous in saying what would seem uncontroversial to many new Canadians, but is not at all broached in Canadian policy discourses – to wit, that part of the bargain of coming to Canada is that there may be a need for you to live or be based in a particular part of the country x for at least y years. There is nothing constitutionally controversial about requiring people (including as a condition for certain benefits or employment or status) to relocate between two points within a particular province. But in my assessment, as I wrote in The Strategic Constitution – Understanding Canadian Power in the World, a constitutional defence can also be made for requiring new Canadians – for instance, before they become permanent residents or citizens – to live or be based in city or town x for y years. Of course, this area of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 6) is largely unlitigated, but the state could, if serious, by combining such a requirement with a possible incentive package for new Canadians to live in particular parts of the country, make a persuasive argument that this is defensible on strategic, economic and other grounds – all part of the overall push to populate the land.
Will there be pogroms, as it were, between older and new Canadians – that is, will there be major social tensions relating to integration challenges for these many new Canadians? Answer: surely there will be some tensions along the way, as there have always been in the course of integrating new Canadians over Canada’s first 150 years – degrees of discrimination, alienation, and even some fighting – particularly in parts of the country that have been less exposed to immigration. However, the longer-term tendency in Canada has always been toward the exceptional and efficient absorption of newcomers into the body politic – provided the aforementioned three bottom lines are observed (in relation to the Quebec question, the basic majority/minority structure, and the distribution of the population).
More complex will be whether the overall Canadian population at 100 million, for all its evolved dynamism and hardened mentality, will be one that is still willing to ‘fight’ for the country. What will a ‘Canadian’ be at 100 million? Around which idea of Canada can we unite this large, diverse mass of humanity spread across a continent-sized country? If the ‘Canadian’ is still, as I once argued, a political construct – that is, if Canadian identity is largely politically negotiated – then this will likely be even more true in a country with a far larger and more complex population. A country of this scale, whose people are Canadian because of Canadian politics, will surely need significant political leadership, major political projects, and an expansive, flexible political imagination in order that it have citizens who remain agreeable about continuing to do things together.
Irvin Studin is Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Global Brief.